This post has been updated.
The former attorney for the neighborhood watch captain who shot and killed Trayvon Martin has moved on to defending the police chief who released his former client.
It’s just the latest strange twist in the case, as George Zimmerman’s former attorney, Hal Uhrig, turned up at an emergency Sanford Commission meeting to speak on behalf of Chief Bill Lee, the man many hold responsible for failing to arrest Zimmerman on the night of the shooting.
Uhrig was one of only two members of the public who spoke at the April 23rd meeting, at which the city commission discussed a severance agreement reached between Lee and the city manager, Norton Bonaparte.
Uhrig was the first to speak, comparing the commission to the Biblical Pontius Pilate, who “a couple thousand years ago,” said ”’I find no fault with this guy myself, but what does the crowd have to say?’ and the Sanhedrin said ‘crucify him.’”
“I’m not suggesting Billy Lee is Jesus Christ,” Uhrig said, “but you might be Pontius Pilate.
Uhrig lambasted the commission for its 3-2 “no confidence” vote against Lee on March 22nd, accusing the then-majority, which included Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett, Commissioner Mark McCarty, and the commission’s only black member, Velma Williams, of caving in to outside agitators.
“Rather than waiving the responsibility that you have to make the decision, you let people come in here from New York, from Miami from Baltimore, from New York — way far away,” Uhrig told the meeting. “And we listen to voices like Al Sharpton, who was wrong on Tawana Brawley, who was wrong on Crown Heights, who was wrong on the Duke players, who was wrong on Bernhard Goetz, who started many riots in a couple of those cases, only to be proven wrong, we’re gonna listen to him. We’re gonna listen to Jesse Jackson who came in afterwards and said ‘I’m just really using this as a platform for my anti-gun legislation.’ We’re gonna listen to folks that are against the second amendment and don’t like the law itself.”
Sharpton is the head of the National Action Network, and was contacted by Martin’s family and attorneys after no arrest had been made nearly two weeks after the shooting. He is also an MSNBC host. (MSNBC and theGrio are divisions of NBC News.)
The law Uhrig was defending is Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” statute, which Uhrig read from, saying it protected George Zimmerman from arrest, and noting that it passed the Florida Senate unanimously. His presentation elicited cheers from those gathered at the meeting, which included few opponents of Lee’s continued tenure.
Triplett reversed his position following the hearing, siding with those who later voted down the agreement, essentially rejecting Lee’s resignation.
Reached for comment, Uhrig’s assistant, who gave her name only as Becky, (a Becky Fiore is listed on the law firm’s website as senior legal assistant) said Uhrig was not at the meeting as Lee’s attorney. “He is not representing him, they are long friends,” she said of Uhrig and Lee.”And Lee does not need an attorney. He spoke for Lee as a friend.”
Sara Brady, a spokesperson for Lee, disputes that, releasing a statement to theGrio stating, “Chief Lee has never met Mr. Uhrig, is not represented by Mr. Uhrig in any capacity and was unaware that Mr. Uhrig would be appearing at the special commission meeting earlier this week.”
Lawyer takes case personally
Uhrig, the bombastic central Florida attorney who runs a DUI and criminal defense practice, served as a Fox news affiliate’s legal analyst during the Casey Anthony trial. He briefly signed on as Zimmerman’s co-counsel in early April. He and Zimmerman’s original lawyer, Craig Sonner, withdrew on April 10th, in a dramatic news conference in which they announced they’d lost touch with their client for several days. The next day, the special prosecutor in the case, Angela Corey, announced that second degree murder charges had been filed against Zimmerman, who had turned himself in to state authorities.
The charges followed more than 50 days of international protests, during which time more than 2 million people signed an online petition demanding Zimmerman’s arrest. The case has created sharp divisions along political and racial lines, both inside Sanford and across the U.S.
Uhrig has long seemed to take the case personally.
“Sunday morning, February 26th, I lived in this community and so did y’all,” he said. “What happened is that the Sanford police department and its chief were following the law as set out by the legislature. They may not have been following the public opinion of a very small minority, a very vocal minority, who came before you and one of whom basically threatened this commission and said there’ll be no peace, there’ll be no resolution in Sanford Florida until Chief Lee is gone. And if y’all fall for that, if you buckle to that, then frankly you ought to resign and you ought to go find a job where you can make your own decisions instead of buckling to that kind of extortion.”
Reached for comment, Zimmerman’s current attorney, Mark O’Mara, has yet to respond.
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